Oxygen exposure does not promote healing for diabetic foot ulcers, researchers discover

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Long-term care providers may want to think twice about including oxygen exposure in the treatment regimen for residents with diabetic foot ulcers. Oxygen treatment does not improve wound healing and may actually be harmful, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine looked at nearly 6,300 diabetes patients treated for foot ulcers between 2005-2011. Of this cohort, 793 underwent hyperbaric oxygen treatment. The team's findings contradict a commonly held belief that exposure to oxygen promotes wound healing. After 16 weeks of treatment, 43% of oxygen-treated patients had fully healed foot wounds, while roughly half of patients who did not receive the treatment were healed. Furthermore, about 7% of the oxygen-treated patients had an amputation. This was more than triple the number of amputees (2%) in the other group.

The researchers tried to control for the fact that oxygen treatment may be reserved for more serious cases, lead author David Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., told Reuters Health. However, they were not able to conclusively rule out this possibility. The findings were published Feb. 19 in the online version of the journal Diabetes Care.

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